Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dining in 'Ohana is a "10" and truly feels like being on a Pacific Island, just off the coast of the Magic Kingdom

This article is part of the DisMarks Blog Carnival. Check out the current edition.

I've always wanted to stay at the Polynesian Resort, but since I'm not a DVC member as a result, financially the Moderate and Value Resorts are the normal choice for our trips, that will likely not happen unless the lottery strikes. So for us, the next best thing is to visit them anyway and partake in the amenities available to anyone. By the way, this is one of our top recommendation for all visitors, since there is so much to see and do outside of the theme parks at Walt Disney World.

One of our ADR's this last trip was at 'Ohana, for several reasons. One, is that its a buffet (or actually family style). This is always an attraction for me since choosing small or large amounts from what I enjoy is better than just having one entree served on a plate. Next, it's an entertaining experience, not just an eat your dinner and run. And of course, it's at a Deluxe Resort we would love to stay at, so this was our chance to enjoy the ambiance and features without paying a higher room rate.

Now there is a lot at the Polynesian to see, and this article is not the comprehensive review of the entire resort. Suffice it to say that there is clearly a south seas feeling about the place, especially at night as we strolled along the beach and also the walkways lit by fire lamps which is very romantic. (Yes kids, even for us folks who have been married for 37+ years, there are romantic moments.) Inside it's the same, with a lobby filled with lush landscaping, a waterfalls, colorful birds and scenery right out of Hollywood set.

POLYNESIA, FLORIDA STYLE -- White sandy beaches, palm trees, water recreation and traditional South Seas longhouses are all combined in Disney's Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World Resort. The 847-room Polynesian-themed resort features 11 two- and three-story longhouses situated across the serene Seven Seas Lagoon from Magic Kingdom. Photo  © Disney

'Ohana is located on the second floor of the Great Ceremonial House. There is a Lilo and Stitch character breakfast, but what we attended was the family-style Polynesian feast where meats and seafood are grilled over an open fire pit. 'Ohana means "family" in Hawaiian culture, and the seating and atmosphere reflect that. And you are all "cousins" at 'Ohana.


When the doors open initailly for dinner, the bellow of conch shells welcomes diners to a festive “island feast” served family-style in the spacious dining room with a dramatic, 18-foot-long, open fire pit. There’s no menu to choose from, everyone shares in everything they offer that evening.

Mary Ann and Bruce

Many people help you during your experience. When you enter someone will take around and point out some features of the restaurant. You have a server, who has an assistant. There is also an entertainer who will work the room by passing out leis (which are now hanging in our bedroom), provide encouragment for the kids (and kids at heart) to learn the hula, promote the hula hoop and even host coconut races which are really funny. If it's your birthday, or anniversary or honeymoon, make sure you let people know so you can be serenaded by the room. It is a lot of fun when everyone including yourself gets into the act.

 
Also part of the entertainment, and depending on where you are sitting, is the Wishes fireworks occurring just a few miles away. We were lucky and were seated near the rear windows, which was a real treat as the music and narrative are piped into the dining room and our view of the fireworks was excellent. Some people will tell you that arriving after 8:00 pm is a good thing if you want to experience the fireworks; but some others have said that they attended during nights that the sound was not working, although it was great during our visit.


Let me review the menu. One of the features of a family style meal is that the food starts coming, and never seems to stop. This means, you need to pace yourself and don't fill-up before you get to the main course. It is difficult, because at 'Ohana it all feels like a main course. For example, I could have filled up on the starter items of bread and salad. The 'Ohana Welcome Bread is infused with coconut and pineapple and I can make a meal of a good bread, so it was difficult for me right from the start. The opening was further enhanced by the honey-lime dressing on an absolutely wonderful green salad. I knew right away this was going to be a filling evening, but I had to control myself (sure I did).

Then came the appetizers of chicken wings, pork fried dumplings, some of the best Asian-style noodles (similar to Lo-Mein) I have ever had and steamed vegetables of broccoli, snow peas and carrots. Excuse me, I make a meal of chicken wings once a week, and the rest of the accompaniments just overwhelmed my senses so that I could have stopped right there; but you can't do that.


When you walk into the restaurant, you see and smell the preparation area where meats and shrimp are being broiled to perfection over an oak fire. So here they come next, one at a time on large skewers as your server provides you the number of pieces you want, and return with more as needed. Turkey, Asian BBQ Pork Loin, Steak, and Shrimp (unpeeled). They also provide dipping sauces with a recommendation for each of your main course items, however I mixed them up and enjoyed them all. There are three, a peanut sauce, chimichurri sauce and a mustard sauce.


You conclude with a large slice of 'Ohana bread pudding a la mode with Banana Foster sauce. I must admit, it was a struggle to eat even a couple of bites, in fact, Mary Ann and I shared a single serving, since I couldn't have been more stuffed than I was.


I'm told there is an alternative meal for kids, although I didn't find anything on the menu not appropriate or something they wouldn't enjoy. This would be typical Disney fare such as chicken nuggets, PB&J, a burger and fries. Your server will ask you about any special dietary needs, something you should aways call in advance about anyway. I'm told that the entree selections do change on occasion as well. And of course there is coffee, tea and soda, and refills as needed.

By the way, another review and some better photos are located on the Disney Food Blog. And some other opinion pieces on Trip Advisor which rates 'Ohana as a 4 1/2 of 5 stars and AllEars.Net.

This is a very difficult reservation to get, so ADRs are a must. Our meal was booked for 8:45 pm, late for even us who usually eat about 7:30 pm. Dinner runs from about 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm. The cost per person at the time was $35 for adults and $16 for children, but be aware of higher prices during busier times of the year. On a scale of 1 to 10, this is clearly right at the top for me, and well worth the price of admission and especially for the single table service credit on the meal plan. You can make your reservations for ADRs such as 'Ohana by calling (407) WDW-DINE or (407) 939-3463 up to 180 days prior to your visit. Other than at 7:00 am on the 180 day mark, I find using the Disney website always the best place to begin, both to make and cancel dining reservations. (http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/reservations/dining/)

Aloha.

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